LaunchPoint! Frequent Travelers Vote On New Innovations In The Travel Industry

The travel industry is one that I generally refer to as “the industry that technology forgot”.  While there are a handful of useful applications that have popped up in the travel space, there really hasn’t been any significant amount of disruption.  Milepoint is working with a host of very prestigious sponsors to help fund $50,000 in cash, in-kind prizes and various awards while companies vie for this $50,000 to help fund their travel-themed start-up.

At the recent Frequent Traveler University in Mclean, VA, 10 companies made their pitch to the audience.  I’ve included my thoughts below (with links to each company) as well as the results of this round of voting by frequent travelers.

Award Wallet:

I’m actually a member of Award Wallet and really like their product.  It’s a great way to track point balances for all your family members.  Their specific pitch here was that they would use the $50K to improve security on their site and lobby the airlines to allow them access to their databases again.  While these are noble causes (especially getting airlines to allow them access), I was unenthused as this is ground that’s already been tilled by them, to no avail.

bt social:

This is a social site for business travelers.  I’m a bit social media inept, so this one didn’t appeal a ton to me.  You can check-in (only linked to LinkedIn for now), create a new social meet-up with other travelers on the road or create a new trip.  This is a web application as opposed to an app you download, so it’s ready to be tested.

Cardwatchdog:

This is a useful product that’s already in a decent launch format that allows you track information for your credit cards.  In the age of generous sign-up bonuses, this comes in handy to track things like minimum spend, annual percentage rate, what categories to use a card for and notifications for when your annual fee kicks in.  The cool thing here is they will send you an e-mail when it’s time to cancel that card (you know, once that annual fee gets ready to kick in).  That e-mail includes the phone number for the credit card company so you don’t have to root around for the card to cancel it (okay, you might not have your credit card number committed to memory, but still useful).  I actually know the guys who created this one and have explored the site a bit prior to today.  I plan to use it in the future.

Flyonpoints.com:

The concept for this site would be to display the total points and fees necessary to fly to a specific destination using a variety of different carriers.  The goal is to aggregate this data from elsewhere and display potential choices for travelers.  It’s NOT envisioned as the type of tool that you would plug specific dates into (at least in the beginning) but that you would enter the cities you wanted to travel as a starting point to pick which currency you should use.  I have my doubts about this one.  As it is explained, it’s a bit too basic to be very helpful.  Adding more detail would be helpful but likely extremely cumbersome (figuring out fuel surcharges across different airlines would be hard).

The site is live now but seems to advertise a service to help book your awards for you.  If that’s what you’re in the market for, you’re better off with the most experienced guys at www.bookyouraward.com.

Free World Traveler:

This product hasn’t launched yet, but you can sign up on their website to be notified when they do.  Free World Traveler envisions a world where you ask a simple search engine how to get from point A to point B.  The answers come back along with expert and user ratings that give you a percentage chance of success for your dream itinerary.  I’m all about simple, and I like user and expert feedback. But, I don’t think this one has a lot of meat.  I’m sure it could get up and running and be useful, but I’m not sure where it goes from there.

Pintrips:

Pintrips is already live and has browser extensions you can install now to try their product.  Their product helps you compare different flight options as you search for a trip.  The browser extension allows you to “pin” specific itinerary you search for on a booking engine, which adds it to your Pintrips dashboard.  The site keeps track of those itineraries and even re-prices them for you when you check on them at a later date.

This was my favorite product of the bunch.  I just spent some time trying to find a flight for a colleague that was a bit tough.  I pulled up tons of different searches and doubled back a few times.  Based on my schedule over the weekend, it took me a day or so to get together all the data.  Some of it was just remnant open tabs in my browsers, other data I had to search for multiple times to arrive at a final itinerary.

In theory (I haven’t tried it yet), Pintrips would have kept track of these itineraries as I found them.  I’m not sure where this site will generate revenue from, but I love the idea and plan to use the product soon.

PointsHound:

PointsHound is up and running and has been since late 2012.  I believe they plan to use the prize money if they win to expand features but they’ve already got a fairly usable platform.  The premise is that you book through their portal for increased benefits.  Admittedly, I didn’t see a lot of value in this tool since I was under the impression that you couldn’t earn elite benefits (or get elite recognition) if you used their service.

Either I was wrong or something changed, since they now show two different courses.  One course has you getting those elite benefits and earning a few more points than you normally would if you booked through other engines.  The other does not earn you elite benefits but can earn you up to 20 miles per dollar spent in lots of common airline programs (think American, Delta and United for starters).  Based on this information I’ll need to give PointsHound another look.  I still want my elite benefits, but for those who don’t, there’s a ton of points to be had through this model.

They’re essentially turning a big part of the commission they receive from the hotel chains into benefits for you.  They’re offering generous referral benefits to existing members as their marketing strategy and they’re seeing reasonable expansion.  No idea if they reach critical mass, but I’ll give them a test in the future and report back.

Shuttle Me:

This is an app that’s supposed to serve as a “helper” for locating hotel shuttles.  Think Uber meets the hotel shuttle business.  I didn’t really get this, but that’s probably because I’m not a hotel shuttle guy.  I couldn’t find their web presence.

Traxo:

Traxo is a digital travel wallet.  It consolidates all your travel info in one place and allows you to track the information in a number of unique ways.  I don’t have personal experience with Traxo but some folks I know well (Rubiano and Seth) were in the demo I saw, so I’ll be following up with them and giving it a test drive myself.

Walla.by:

Wallaby has ambitious goals.  It wants to be an advanced credit card that allows you to access your credit cards from the cloud or a special Wallaby card that would/could store a slew of credit cards on one piece of plastic.  It comes with a mobile app that aspires to be that reminder which tells you the right card to use for all your different spending categories.  I’ll admit, this one made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck because of some of the privacy issues, but it really seemed to resonate with the crowd….

Two winners advanced to the next round in Tampa later this fall.  The overwhelming winner was Walla.by, almost a 3:1 margin over second place, which was Cardwatchdog.

I plan to spend some time over the next few weeks digging into these companies and getting a better idea to share with all of you.

Do you have any experience with these apps?  If so, please share your thoughts!

4 Comments

  1. PointsHound did add the ability to book and get regular elite points/recognition at a limited number of hotels a few weeks back. They are growing that aspect of their product where they can but, for the most part, the sweet spot with them is on bookings where you would otherwise not be earning points anyways (i.e. Four Seasons bookings) or where you are not interested in paying the premium for a branded stay but want some earnings out of it.

    1. Seth, glad to hear I wasn’t losing my mind and that they added that feature recently. Even if it’s only limited hotels I think it can help drive behavior for customers who occasionally may want their elite benefits. For example, a Hyatt elite who ends up in a city with no Hyatts might book that non-Hyatt stay and earn the full amount of airline miles (I think they called that “Big Earnings” in their presentation).

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